Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

20 December 2012

Namibia: This Week in the Khuta - Lessons From Germany

opinion

My recent trip to Germany was a real eye opener in the true sense. Coming from a country with an ambitious plan to become an industrialised nation by 2030, one cannot help but draw comparisons between Namibia and Germany premised on the notion that if you want to become the best, you have to learn from the best.

I was particularly fascinated by what I saw in Germany's second biggest city, Hamburg. With a population of about 1.8 million, Hamburg is a very interesting place. After half of the city was reduced to ashes by allied forces bombs in the Second World War, the city has been rebuilt to become a major transport and commercial hub in the world. The city is home to some of the biggest companies in the world such as Airbus which employs 12000 workers at its Hamburg plant alone.

I was spellbound by the volume of cargo that I saw leaving industries and factories in Hamburg to the harbour destined for the export market. In my entire life, I had never seen so many trucks and vessels carrying cargo.

This brings me to my point. As Hamburg is regarded as the commercial nerve centre of Northern Europe, and with only 17 years to go before Namibia attains industrialisation status in 2030, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from a city like Hamburg which quickly re-established itself as a major commercial and transport hub after the second world war bombings. Like Hamburg after the Second World War, our industrial base is very low and we rely mostly from South Africa for about 70% of our consumer goods. If a city like Hamburg can literally rise from the ashes some 10 odd years after the war, Namibia with all its advantages of a stable political environment, good road and rail infrastructure, abundant natural resources and a port, surely have all the ingredients to become an industrialised nation.

By comparison, what we lack is the human capital, but with our historical ties with Germany, Namibia can benefit a lot from that country in terms of skills development through scholarships, worker exchange programmes, and so forth.

Again more should be done at a political level to entice Germany financial capital to Namibia. There is greater scope for increased trade and investment between Namibia and Germany. I write under correction, but the N$2.5 billion Ohorongo Cement factory in Otavi, is by far the biggest Germany investment in Namibia. This should not be the case, as more and more Germany companies with their cutting edge technology should be enticed to establish businesses in the country by way of incentives such as the Infant Industry Protection and offering Export Processing Zone status.

It goes without saying that when these incentives have been promised to the investor, the bureaucratic process should be efficient to ensure that they are actually granted without unnecessary delays. Prolonging to grant Infant Industry Protection when promised will not inspire other would-be investors to come and set up local shop.

After touching down at the Frankfurt International Airport, my thoughts immediately shifted to our own international airport, the Hosea Kutako International Airport. As our national airline expands its route network, and modernise its fleet, it is imperative that the Hosea Kutako Airport is upgraded into a modern airport that meet the demands of a discerning international traveller. For the uninitiated, Frankfurt International Airport is an engineering marvel, and an international airport in every sense. A visitor from Frankfurt to Namibia for the first time can be forgiven to think they have just touched down at an aerodrome when they land at our version of an international airport.

If we dream of becoming an industrialised nation, then I think some of the Tipeeg funds should be used to upgrade the Hosea Kutako International Airport in line with Air Namibia's new business plan model. Whoever is in charge of the Namibia Airports Company (if there is any) needs to wake up from his deep slumber and start doing the work that they are paid for.

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